A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
By Therese Anne Fowler
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9781250028655, 375pp.)
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
List Price: $25.99*
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I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.
What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.
Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald wed in 1920, and the two went on to have a famously turbulent literary marriage. Would Zelda have been better off without her husband? Novelist Therese Anne Fowler says, "They were two sides of one coin." More at NPR.org
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- Many accounts of both Scott and Zelda contend that Zelda wouldn't marry Scott unless he was well off—a view they themselves encouraged in the early years of their marriage. How does this play into the flapper image Zelda embodied in the '20s? Overall, was it harmful or beneficial to her?
“Fowler expertly depicts the rapture of the couple’s early love, and later, the bullying and sickness that drove them apart…Z zips along addictively.” —Entertainment Weekly
“[A] richly imagined novel…Here [Zelda’s] touching story is also fascinating and funny, it animates an entire era.” —People
“A gorgeously rendered piece of literary entertainment, not a biography but rather a love story set in the Jazz Age.” —The Daily News
"A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman." —Library Journal
“Fowler’s Zelda is all we would expect and more…once she meets the handsome Scott, her life takes off on an arc of indulgence and decadence that still causes us to shake our heads in wonder…soirées with Picasso and his mistress, with Cole Porter and his wife, with Gerald and Sara Murphy, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ezra Pound and Jean Cocteau. Scott’s friendship with Hemingway verges on a love affair—at least it’s close enough to one to make Zelda jealous. Ultimately, both of these tragic, pathetic and grand characters are torn apart by their inability to love or leave each other. Fowler has given us a lovely, sad and compulsively readable book.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Fowler renders rich period detal in this portrayal of a fascinating woman both blessed—and cursed—by fame." —Booklist
"With lyrical prose, Fowler's Z beautifully portrays the frenzied lives of, and complicated relationship between, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald...This is a novel that will open readers' minds to the life of an often misunderstood woman—one not easily forgotten." —RT Book Reviews
"A novel that is as heartbreaking as it is mesmerizing. About love, desire, betrayal, and one extraordinary woman struggling to shine in the world—even as the one she loves best is drawing the shades. Just magnificent." —Caroline Leavitt
"A wonderfully engaging read. With crisp dialogue and vivid descriptions, Z delivers both a compelling love story and a poignant tale of a woman coming into her own as an artist." —Heidi W. Durrow
"An utterly engrossing portrayal of Zelda Fitzgerald and the legendary circles in which she moved. In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, Therese Anne Fowler shines a light on Zelda instead of her more famous husband, providing both justice and the voice she struggled to have heard in her lifetime." —Sara Gruen